Checklist before moving

Checklist before leaving

When you are about to move to a new country, it is important that you aware of relevant bureaucratic consequences to ensure that you make the best decision for your specific situation. The following checklist will give you an idea of various aspects to consider:

  • Cancelling subscriptions. You should go through all your subscriptions, memberships and ongoing contracts to decide if you need to cancel some of them. An efficient way to get an overview of such subscriptions is to go through your bank and credit card statements to find recurring payments.

  • De-registering or staying registered. When moving temporarily to another country (even if it is for several years), you will often need to decide if you want to stay officially registered in your current country or home country. This decision may have important consequences for your tax status, which can be positive or negative. For example, if you study abroad, but intend to come back after the completion of your studies, it can be beneficial to stay registered which may allow you to claim your study expenses as tax deductions when you take on a job in your home country (see here for Germany).

  • Changing health insurance. The single most important insurance in your life is most likely your health insurance. In many situations, you will be required to change your insurance when moving to a new country. Sometimes you will be able to keep your old insurance or pause it during your absence, such that you can continue your coverage after your return. Depending on the country you are moving to, it may be wise to take out additional insurance cover.

  • Mail forwarding and updating address. If you do not have friends or family staying at your current address, you may want to set up mail forwarding to your future address or to the address of a trusted person. This can typically be done for a small fee and will ensure that you continue to receive important mail, even after you moved country. Furthermore, you will probably have registered your old address at various accounts and services, so it would be useful to go through a list of important accounts and update your address.

  • Retirement benefits. Even if you are still young, you should know how your move may affect your retirement situation. If you move temporarily for education, you should check if the time abroad counts in some way towards your retirement. If you move for work, you should familiarize yourself with the retirement system in the new country and it can best complement your current retirement plan.

  • Overview of insurances. You should go through your insurance coverage and decide which ones you want to keep and which ones you may want to cancel. Furthermore, you may also want to consider to sign up for new insurances, such as travel or travel health insurances. Furthermore, if you intend to rent cars in the new country (such as in the US), it may be beneficial to sign up for a car rental insurance in your home country, which may already be worth it if you only rent a car for a few days per year.

  • Initial liquidy and accessibility. Regardless if you move for studies or work, you will require some money to survive in the new country. In most cases, you will not have immediate access to banking in the new country and also salaries are often only paid out after a few months. Consequently, you should make sure that you have sufficient cash (liquidity) in your current bank account and that you know how you can use your funds abroad (accessibility). In most cases, it is smart to open a bank account in your current country that offers a credit or debit card that can be used internationally without additional fees.

  • Investment plans. Moving to a new country often comes with general changes in life, where it is always good to have some cash or savings on the side. Consequently, it is a good time to think about your long term saving strategy and what you want to do with the money that you currently have. Even if we are only talking about small amounts, compound interest means that your decisions in early life (such as in your twenties) may significantly impact your future backup savings. As retirement benefits differ between countries, it may also be wise to consider your current financial situation with regards to retirement. In particular, it may be a good time to consider some simple and diversified strategies to invest on the global stock market (typically using passive investment tools, such as ETFs, i.e., Exchange Traded Funds).

  • Consider tax and notice obligations. When leaving a country for good, your are regularly required to give some official notice or require some approval regarding certain obligations (e.g., some departing immigrants from the US require a sailing permit). Moreover, even if you leave a country you are often required to file your taxes at the end of the calendar year, for which you sometimes even need to include the income earned in your new country of residence. You should make sure that you are aware of any such requirements and prepare the relevant documentation accordingly. You can read more about US taxes and German taxes for internationals.

  • Open accounts or sign up for services. Some accounts (such as investment or bank accounts) often require proof of address in the respective country when you open it. Even though, you may be able to keep the accounts open after leaving, it will often not be possible to open new accounts once you moved to new country. The same goes for certain services (such as Netflix subscription, HBO etc.) which may not be available or more expensive in other countries. Check out our recommendations here. You can also read more here about keeping your US accounts open.

  • Keeping/closing financial accounts. When leaving your current country, you will need to decide if you want to keep your financial accounts (bank accounts, brokerage accounts, credit cards). There are good reasons to keep some accounts open, so that you can still receive payments (e.g., possible reimbursements) or make payments (e.g., tax liability). On the other hand, some originally free accounts may start charging you a maintenance fee if you do not receive a monthly salary. Typically, it is best to close accounts that charge a fee - unless you intend to actively use the accounts (e.g., premium credit cards). You can then keep a single bank account without a fee and all other accounts that you may still want to use (credit cards, brokerage). You can also read more here about keeping your US accounts open.

Checklist of items to bring

When moving to a new country, you may not take all your documents with you. Therefore, it can be a good idea to digitize the most important documents.

Essential documents

  • Passport / identification document

  • Vaccination record

  • Driving licence

  • Visa document / residence permit

Important pieces of information

  • Passport / ID number

  • Driving licence number

  • Visa / residence permit number

  • Social insurance number

  • Tax identification number

  • List of former addresses

  • Travel / flight records

Digital documents

  • Degree certificates (school and university)

  • Certificates of skills

  • Bank / brokerage statements

  • Tax returns

  • Pay slips / income overview

  • Retirement overview

  • Rent contracts